Recap of Special Town Meeting: October 25, 2021

A little over 300 residents attended the Orleans Special Town Meeting on the evening of October 25 in the Nauset Regional Middle School auditorium. Electronic voting devices were used for most counts. Masks were required in the school building. Super fast, the meeting was called to order at 6:00 pm and officially ended at 7:24 pm.

All articles passed, and most of them passed easily. The longest debate was provoked by the article asking to revise the focus of the feasibility study for the fire station — from looking at renovation or expansion to a new building with possibly a new location. It was fraught and complicated at times. It was less about whether Orleans needs a new fire station and more about where it would be located. Stay tuned for more on that.

Quick Recap:

Nauset Beach Parking Lot: Voters passed Article 7, the second phase of the Nauset Beach Retreat project — 224 votes in favor, 81 against — in just 4:21 minutes. There was only one negative comment about approving construction of the upper-deck parking lot, in preparation for the lower level being underwater. The plan was “ludicrous,” the resident said, and “a lot of money for a very small return.”

Emergency Dredging of Rock Harbor: Voters approved Article 8 after hearing from several local fishermen and boat captains who expressed a sense of urgency about clearing the channel. Discussion took 6:33 minutes. Bill Amaru, the Shellfish & Waterways representative to the Dredge Advisory Committee, called Rock Harbor the “jewel of waterways in this village,” and asked the townspeople to endorse the dredging plan. They complied. The vote was 292 in favor, 16 against.

Universal Preschool: Article 9 passed without conflict or comments. Most of the 5:17 minutes went into a description of the new program provided by Gail Briere, former OES principal and now Chair of the Orleans School Committee. The vote tally was 221 in favor, 86 against.

An application for Orleans families will soon be available on the Town website. Upon approval of their application (verifying residence and the child's age), parents of three- and four-year-olds can enroll their child in any licensed, participating preschool or pre-K program on the Cape, and Orleans will pay the schools and providers directly.

Fire Station Feasibility Study: The discussion about Article 10, to fund an expanded feasibility study, was a long and winding road to a final vote, a journey that took 29:34 minutes, during which residents heard an introduction, an explanation, another explanation, and a total of ten comments.

The article, as written, asked voters to approve a revised feasibility study that would, among other things, identify the best location for a new fire station — the current site having been deemed unsuitable. (For more details about the revised focus of the study, see the EXIT 89 preview of Special Town Meeting.) Orleans resident Kyle Wibby spoke first, proposing an amendment to the article that would exclude land owned by the Nauset Regional School District (NRSD) from the new study. This idea — of relocating to NRSD land — had been presented by Ron Collins, the Building & Facilities Manager of the Orleans Department of Public Works, at a Select Board meeting on September 1 and had been met with heated objections. Resident Liz McComb spoke next, identifying herself as a trained civil engineer with a background in construction management. She argued that the NRSD land be included in the new study in order to produce a comprehensive and valid review of options. A vote passed to accept Wibby’s amendment.

After hearing from Fire Chief Geof Deering, who described the current fire station as unsafe and unhealthy, the debate shifted again to location — and whether a new building should or could be built on NRSD property. There was more discussion and a motion to reconsider Wibby’s amendment, which narrowly failed: 154 in favor, 163 against. Kudos to moderator David Lyttle, who got us through this procedural puzzle.

Ultimately, the main article, including Wibby’s amendment to exclude exploration of NRSD property from the new feasibility study, passed easily: 256 in favor, 51 against.

Wastewater Master Plan: Article 22, calling for funding the development of an expanded wastewater plan for the next phase of work following the sewering of downtown and Meetinghouse Pond, also passed quickly — only 2:28 minutes — with 287 in favor, 13 against.

Results of Special Town Election on November 2:

  • All four questions passed.
  • Michael Herman was elected to the Orleans Select Board to serve in the spot left by Cecil Newcomb’s resignation last summer. According to Town Clerk Kelly Darling, most Orleans voters filled out early mail-in ballots for a total of 1849 ballots cast. Of those, Herman, who ran unopposed, received 1475 votes.

Click here for the official counts.

EXIT 89 is researched and written by journalists and authors Martha Sherrill and Emily Miller with assistance from Hanna Sweeney, our intern. Editing and tech support is provided by Kazmira Nedeau. The Advisory Board currently includes Lynn Bruneau and Elaine Baird. We are all residents of Orleans.

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